The Congress filed a “detailed’’ reply before the Election Commission on Tuesday, claiming party president Sonia Gandhi had not violated the model code of conduct when had she used the phrase “merchants of death’’ during her campaign at Navsari in Gujarat on December 1.
Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi refused to divulge the contents of the reply. “We will not share it (the contents) with the media,’’ he said. But he added: “the determining facts demonstrate clearly that there is not the slightest violation of the model code of conduct.’’
Party leaders have lately been quoting in full the portion of Sonia’s speech where she used the expression “merchants of death’’ to point out that she had not taken names. The use of the plural “merchants’’, instead of the singular showed she had the entire state administration in mind and not any single individual — this is a key point that is likely to have figured in the reply.
Congressmen also dismissed as “outrageous” the attempts to equate Sonia’s remarks with Narendra Modi’s justification of Sobrabuddin Sheikh’s encounter death.
There was no word on why the Congress was reluctant to make the reply public.
In his response, AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, also served a separate notice by the commission, denied having made the remarks — “Hindu terrorism” prevails in Gujarat — attributed to him by a newspaper. He sought a week’s time to collect material, including reports from other newspapers, of the press conference where he was supposed to have uttered those words.
“I have never used the words as reported in the newspaper clipping,’’ he told the EC, adding that as a responsible person in public life, “I cannot even think to indulge in any activity which is likely to aggravate the existing differences”.
“I would like to request the Commission to call upon the complainant requiring him to furnish more concrete material rather than making baseless complaints on hearsay material,’’ he said.